I have read numerous articles recently around the benefits of utilising metadata in SharePoint Server 2010 as opposed to the age-old folder paradigm.

While I have found these articles useful in solidifying my understanding of managed metadata, a recent client query prompted me to scratch my head around the best approach to migrate a "file share" like folder structure to SharePoint.

The existing structure is as follows:

3 folders deep. Unique permissions at each folder.

Here's a fictional example:

IT (folder, unique permissions) > Operations (folder, unique permissions) > Security (folder, unique permissions)

I can't imagine this is in any way unusual for a file share structure.

If it weren't for the use of unique permissions I would happily recommend the use of 3 columns (Area of Business, Category, Subcategory) to allow filtering and sorting within one document library.

I have considered document sets (as you can assign a set of unique permissions and metadata), but this doesn't allow a nested approach and therefore fails to support a 3 level hierarchy.

The only options appear to be either using folders or separate document libraries at the 2nd level (in the example above, "IT" would be a site and "operations" would be a document library). However, neither approach allows metadata to be rolled up.

Does anyone have any alternative suggestions? Am I missing something?

Thanks in advance.


If you like the option of using separate document libraries at the 2nd level, you can roll up the data using a content query web part, provided that all of the documents are within a single site collection. That would allow you to show a list of documents from multiple lists / multiple sites in a single web part. You'll want to be sure you plan out your content types for the documents carefully so that the roll up works like you expect.

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How about a combo approach?

  1. Keep your folder structure inside ONE document library
    • If you need a hierarchy, this is the way to go.
    • Your users will be familiar with it.
    • Much easier to maintain permissions at the folder level rather than document level.
    • One document library is simpler than many libraries
  2. Add some basic metadata to the library

Keep the familiar structure that is easy to maintain. Some simple metadata will allow users to filter / roll-up documents at a higher level.

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